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Principles of Healthy Eating

More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the Weight-Control Information Network. If you are in this category, you are at increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer; however, healthy eating lowers your risk of these diseases. Include a variety of healthy foods in your daily diet to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic disease.

Fruits and Vegetables

Eat at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily to help prevent heart attack and stroke, recommends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, bell peppers and tomatoes decrease your risk for certain cancers, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. Fruits and vegetables are relatively low in calories and high in fiber, helping you maintain a healthy weight. If you opt for frozen or canned produce, choose low sodium versions, or those packed in their own juice.

Whole Grains

Whole grains include the bran, germ and endosperm of the plant seed. Refined grains are processed to remove the bran and the germ, consequently removing important nutrients, such as fiber and B vitamins. Whole grain intake is associated with lower body weight and reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, says the USDHHS. Replace refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, with whole-wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal. Check the nutrition label to ensure that whole grain is the first or second ingredient on the list.

Lean Protein

Processed meats that are salted, cured or smoked, such as bacon, hot dogs and lunch meats, increase your risk for colon cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. Replace some of the red meat in your diet with beans, peas, soy products, nuts and seeds to decrease saturated fat intake. In addition to protein, these foods provide fiber and healthy fats. Eat at least 8 ounces per week of protein-rich seafood to lower your risk of heart disease. Choose fish with higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, herring and Albacore tuna. The health benefits of seafood consumption outweigh the risk from methyl mercury, says the USDHHS.

Healthy Fats

Replace saturated fats, such as those found in beef and butter, with unsaturated oils from avocados, nuts, olives and seafood to lower your cholesterol and stave off heart disease, advises the USDHHS. These foods provide essential fats that help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D E and K. They also contain dietary fiber, which promotes healthy levels of fat and sugar in your blood to prevent heart disease and diabetes.

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